Innovative Partnership Awards $200,000 to Four Atlanta Civic Entrepreneurs

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ATLANTA – Four Atlanta social ventures have been awarded a total of $200,000 by the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation and Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI) through the Civic Impact Loan Fund, an effort created in partnership with the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) to support early-stage civic entrepreneurs in scaling their businesses and expanding their community impact in Atlanta.

The Civic Impact Loan Fund, created in December 2016 by Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. in partnership with the Center for Civic Innovation, is an innovative investment tool that provides flexible, zero-interest loans to entrepreneurs who have early-stage businesses that are making a difference in their local communities. The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation was founded in 2006 on a mission to support and empower women through education, entrepreneurship, and the arts. The contribution from the Sara Blakely Foundation ensured that at least $100,000 of the fund went to women-led ventures.

“We are proud to continue supporting civic-minded businesses and those working on the front lines to make a positive impact on other people’s lives,” said Stephen McRae, President of AEMI. “These outstanding entrepreneurs are not only bringing new business ideas to life, they are also showing their commitment to creating equity in our underserved communities. I wish each of these entrepreneurs continued success and admire them in their dedication to making Atlanta a greater city for all.”

“For me, this is about investing in the person, not just the business,” said Sara Blakely, Founder and CEO of Spanx and the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation. “Not only do I believe we need to close the gap in women’s access to capital, I believe we need to give these women the holistic support that will enable them to soar. After providing them with a year of mentorship and training in partnership with CCI, we are celebrating their success and excited to invest in their businesses so they can grow and scale their impact.”

AEMI and the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation each contributed $100,000 to fund early-stage civic entrepreneurs. The applicants selected to receive the $200,000 in total funding are Civic Dinners, The Showcase Group, BrownToxBoy, and SwemKids (The William Pleshette Company). All four of the entrepreneurs leading these organizations are recent graduates of CCI’s Civic Innovation Residency program, a one-year intensive leadership, business development and coaching program for civic entrepreneurs in the greater Atlanta-area that was sponsored by the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation. CCI also provided deal sourcing, underwriting, mentorship, and programmatic support.

“These civic problem solvers represent the greatest assets of our economy,” said Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Civic Innovation. “Each of their businesses exists to solve a specific systemic challenge, and their success will create ripple effects for generations. Civic Entrepreneurship is in Atlanta’s DNA. We’re just shining a light on the people who are on the ground, doing the work.”

The 2019 recipients are:

  • Jenn Graham | Civic Dinners aims to help create a more inclusive world where everyone feels invited and engaged in co-creating a better future by bringing people together over food for conversations that matter. 

  • John Kennebrew | The Showcase Group works to strengthen justice-involved youth and families through psychological and personal development services inside and out of juvenile detention centers. Showcase Group provides support to incarcerated youth and their families by implementing psychosocial services such as advocacy and family and individual therapy by trained professionals.

  • Terri Nichelle-Bradley | Brown Toy Box produces children's products and exposure experiences designed to encourage and prepare black children to pursue interests and careers in STEAM.

  • Trish Miller | Swem Kids (The William Pleshette Company) is a 501(c)(3) school-based program that teaches children introductory swimming lessons and water safety skills as a part of their school's curriculum. The William Pleshette Company, Swem Kids' for-profit entity, is designing and testing a fully waterproof swimming cap to keep thick and curly hair dry in the water and address a cultural obstacle to swimming.

“This contribution is really going to take The Showcase Group to the next level,” said John Kennebrew, Executive Director and Founder of The Showcase Group. “We've grown from working with two youth out of the detention center to working with one hundred youth this year. Now, we're able to put a Program Director in place to manage the logistics of working with the clinical social workers, advocates, and other community members who help to strengthen the youth we work with. It’s a great relief to now have someone who can manage the day to day relationships, while I can focus on taking the organization to the next level.”

Now in its third year of operation, the Civic Impact Loan Fund has provided $455,000 to a diverse group of early-stage businesses in many different impact areas, including community development, the arts, wellness, and education.

Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI)

AEMI is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Entity created by Invest Atlanta in 2006 that specializes in providing gap financing for projects that create jobs and revitalize Atlanta’s distressed neighborhoods. In 2016, the AEMI board of directors approved the allocation of $100,000 to finance a pilot revolving loan fund for social entrepreneurship in Atlanta.

Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation

Since its inception in 2006, the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation has donated millions to charities around the world, focusing on charities that empower underserved women and girls. In 2013, Sara Blakely became the first self-made, female billionaire to sign the Melinda and Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half her wealth to charity. While many of the world’s resources are being depleted, one is waiting to be unleashed: Women. The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation is on a mission to support women and help them SOAR through education, entrepreneurship and the arts.

Center for Civic Innovation (CCI)

The Center for Civic Innovation invests in outcome-driven and community-led ideas that create systems-level change. Launched in 2014, the focus of the Center for Civic Innovation remains to lead community-wide conversations on issues of inequality, to invest in entrepreneurial ideas in the social sector, and to strengthen civic engagement so people’s voices and ideas remain at the center of public decision-making. Over the past 2.5 years, they’ve invested over $1.5M of new capital into 69 entrepreneurial, community-led ideas.

Alex Clementicivic impact fund